F1 Visa: The definitive Guide to Understanding The F1 Student Visa

What’s F1 Visa?

The F1 Visa is the type of visa that is given to foreign students by the US in order to come and study in academic institutions from elementary, college and universities. This also includes language courses. But for you to apply and be granted the F1 Visa, you need to have applied and have also been accepted by an academic institution.

Nationals who are members of the Visa Waiver Program can not study in the United States without the F1 student Visa. Nonetheless, if you get admitted into a non-credit-bearing course in the US, you could apply for a Business visa(B1) or tourist visa(B2) or pass through the Visa Waiver program without needing to get the US student visa.

There is no limit to how many student visas are to be granted in a year, hence once you get admission into a school and you have met up with all the requirements and have a successful application, you will have the F1 visa.

However, the US student visa is granted only to those who can show that they have strong connections with their home country and plan on coming back home after their studies. This visa is granted on the reason that the student will go to the US and improve themselves, increase their knowledge and skills then return to develop their own home countries.

How do qualify for an F1 Visa (US student visa)

To get the US student visa, there are some conditions you are expected to meet such as:

Have an admission offer from a SEVP accepted institution

There is a list of schools, universities and other institutions in the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The Student Exchange Visitors Program(SEVP) has its conditions which when international students meet them, they will granted admissions or accepted by schools. Before you qualify to apply for an F1 visa, the student must first apply to get an admission offer from such a SEVP accepted to a school.

It is highly suggested that before you apply to your school or university of choice,you should begin by checking the Student Exchange Visitor Program and see if the chosen school is on the list of institutions there. If yes, then you can then begin to forward them any document that they demand to make your admission decision. but in the case where your preferred school is not on the list of SEVP schools, you should not proceed to apply for an F1 visa even if you were already granted admission into the school or institution.

Have ties to your home country

To get a US student visa you will have to prove and submit documents that show that you have firm attachments or ties to your home country. This is to convince the consul that you have plans of returning home after your studies. if you do not show proof of this, it will be difficult to get an F1 visa.

Proof of financial stability

Other visa holders like the J-1 visa holders have sponsors who pay for their stay in the USA. The F1 student visa holders need to show evidence that they have enough money in their bank accounts to cover all the expenses of living and studying the USA.. However this does not imply that that F1 visa holders can not be granted scholarships. Yes, they are eligible. So you are encouraged to apply for scholarships and organizations to lower your financial burden.

Fluency and Proficiency in English

All international students must prove that they understand and can speak the English language at a level which enables them to register in an academic program. to prove their language proficiency, students may be required to take standardized English proficiency tests such as the IELTS or the TOEFL.

When Can You Apply for the F1 visa

Following your admission into the institution of your choice, you can then apply for the F1 visa 120 days before you are scheduled to start your program. However, you can not apply for the visa earlier than the above stipulated time. Also delaying to apply for the visa may also lead to a delay in the processing time of the visa. Hence as soon as the 120 days count down period begins, do well to submit your application to avoid delays.

F1 Visa Applications: How to Apply for an F1 Visa

There are several steps you will need to go through before to apply for the F1 visa. the steps that are enlisted below are usually the norm when applying for an F1 US student visa, nonetheless, depending on the US Embassy and location where you are applying from, the steps may vary.

You must go through the following steps during an F1 visa application:

  1. Get your admissions documents from the SEVP institutions
  2. Apply online through the DS-160 form
  3. Payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee
  4. schedule your F1 visa interview
  5. Submit the file with the F1 visa required documents
  6. Attend the interview

1. Get admission documents from the SEVP Institution.

when you apply and your admission has been granted by your preferred school, you will have to complete some of the procedures so that you can apply for the F1 visa. The Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students status is the most important document you need to have.. without which you will not be able to apply for a US student visa and attend your interview.

2. Apply online through the DS-160 form

Following the reception of your Form I-20, you can then proceed with the normal application process. this process includes completing the DS-160 form online with the necessary information about your visa status.

3. F1 Visa Fee: Pay the F1 visa Application fee

The F1 student visa application fee is $160. You are required to pay this amount and get a receipt of payment,this receipt will later be used during the interview as part of the documents needed. You may incur additional fees depending on your country of origin and the US Embassy you are applying from.

4. Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee

After getting admission from your preferred SEVP institution, the school will immediately register you in the Student and Exchange Visitors Information System (SEVIS). To complete your registration, there is the SEVIS I901 fee. For the US student visa, the fee is $200.

5. Schedule your F1 Visa Interview.

After completing the DS-160 form and making payment for the fees, the next step is to schedule your interview. The F1 visa interview is a compulsory step before you can get your F1 student visa. it is always advised that you try to schedule your interview as early as possible. this is because delays might be encountered during the processing time as a result of the heavy workload of the US embassy you are applying from. After scheduling your interview you will receive an interview confirmation letter which you will need later on in the application process.

6. F1 Visa Documents: Submit the file with the F1 visa Required documents

You are expected to prepare your document file with all the F1 visa required documents before you go to attend your interview. You are required to submit a list of standard required documents for every US visa, and also the required documents for an F1 visa include:

Documents for F1 Visa

  • Documents to back your previous education and present qualifications
    • Original transcripts
    • Results for the standardized English Test(TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT etc)
    • Acceptance letters from the educational institution which granted you admission
    • Previous Degree Diplomas.
  • Two photographs meeting the US visa photo Requirement
  • Documents to prove that you have the amount readily available to finance your living and studying in the USA.
  • Your Form I-20 states the amount of money which you will need to finance your education and stay in the USA. This can only be done by submitting various documents, such as
    • Bank statements for the last 3 years
    • Payslips of previous Employments
    • Tax record for the past 3years
    • Prove of payment for a semester or year’s worth of tuition will be an added advantage but its not mandatory.
    • In case you received a scholarship, you will need to submit proof of it
    • In the case where you are funding your education through a loan, you should have documents to show that it is an approved loan.
    • If you have a sponsor or you are supported by someone else in the US, you will be required to submit Form I-134, Affidavit of Support and bank statement of the person for the last 3 years.

7. Attend the F1 Visa Interview.

Most of the times when you go to attend the visa interview, the interview questions will always revolve around the reason for going to the United States and the institutions you are going to attend. the US embassy authority will try to deduce if you have plans of returning to your home after you are done with your studies.

When the visa is approved, it might be for the full period that you will be in school in the US or for less. In the circumstances where your program is 2years and you only get a visa for 1 year, you will need to renew your f1 visa before the 1 year period elapses.

When renewing your visa you should follow the same procedures. you might be able to wave the interview with the reason that you have already done it once and your reason for that is just to continue your education for the remaining years to get your degree.

When the visa has been granted, you are allowed to leave for the US 30days before the beginning of your program. you will not be allowed to leave for the US before or earlier than that.

F1 Visa Processing Time

The F1 visa processing time is much shorter than other visas. Most of the processing of this type of visa is usually done before the interview. The interview is the last step, it is for the US embassy to asses whether they should give you an F1 student visa or not.

In most of the cases, you will get the results immediately after the interview. The interview at the US embassy usually takes only minutes. After the interview is completed, the consul might congratulate you for getting the visa or will give you a document to let you know the reason for the denial.

However there are the cases where the response of an F1 visa takes a few days, you are encouraged to be patient if that occurs.

What am I you allowed to do with an F1 visa?

Get access to American Healthcare

f1 visa health insurance

As an F1 visa holder in the United States, you can benefit from the American healthcare system, but it is important to note that the cost of getting treatment might be unbearable. The American system is considered the most expensive healthcare system in the world.

Staying in the hospital for a night in the US may cost about $10000 and treatment for a broken arm or let costs about $2500. it is however not difficult to avoid these costs. It is best for you to purchase the appropriate health insurance cover. it would be considered a very thoughtful investment because getting ill or getting involved in an accident in the United States is not something a student can afford.

You could pick a health insurance plan that fits you best which overall is also affordable and covers your needs.

Where can you get an affordable health insurance plan for students?

There are private companies in the US that offer cheap health insurance coverage plans for international students in the United States. VisitorsCoverage is a good example.

Why do we advise to Purchase a Health Insurance plan through VisitorsCoverage?

They are very well established in the healthcare insurance domain with over 10 years of experience.
VisitorsCoverage is rated highly for their attention to details,hassle-free online experience and impeccable customer service with more than 2 million satisfied clients
VisitorsCoverage is a company that is specialized in health insurance plans to international immigrants into the United States
You are opened to full assistance from the dedicated customer service representatives of the company all week round
you will be provided all the necessary information on choosing the plan that suits you best with the lowest possible cost.

F1 Visa Renewal

In the circumstance where your study program is 1 year, it is most likely that the embassy will give you a visa that will be valid for 1 year. However in some instances when a program is longer, the embassy may issue a visa that is less than the programmed time. For cases like that, the best option is to Renew the F1 Visa. This can be done in two ways:

  • By using the Automatic visa Revalidation option
  • By going to the US Embassy for renewal

F1 Visa Extension

The validity of your student visa is as long as it is stated on your I-20 form and I-94 form which is given to you when you get to the United States. When your F1 visa expires, you have a maximum of 60 days free to prepare your departure back to your home country.

You will have to apply for F1 visa renewal or F1 visa extensions if your original visa does not cover the time period for your study program. However, F1 visa extensions and F1 visa renewals are only granted after you have shown proof that the reason for the renewal is to enable you to complete your study program and that you will return to your home county after completion.

F1 visa status: How to change your F1 Visa Status

In the case where you find a job that requires a different type of Visa which is not the US student visa, then you are allowed to change your visa status. So you will need to work through the instructions of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services(USCIS) and your employer or another petitioner.

F1 Visa to Green Card: Can you change your F1 Visa to a Green Card?

Though you had shown prove of firm links to your home country during the F1 visa application process, you are still allowed to apply for a green card while in the US with an F1 student visa. But it is important to know that it is a complicated procedure to follow. You must either get married in the US or self-petition as a person with extraordinary abilities or prove that you will invest $500,000 in the economy of the United States.

In case all the above situations do not favor you but you still need to remain in the United States, the best way is to change your status into a different type of visa like the H-1B visa and have your employer sponsor you.

Can F1 Visa Holders Work? Working with F1 visa

Even though you were granted a student study visa, you may be allowed to work but for short periods of time since your visa says you came to study and not work. It is possible for you to work part-time on campus during the school sessions and Full time during breaks or holidays. But if you have to work out of campus then there options for you.

Optical Practical Training (OPT)

The Optical Practical Training is specialized for immigrant students to get experience in the USA. The OPT can be started before or after your graduation, but the highest time you are allowed to work is 12 months. Where you are in a STEM-related subject, you can apply for am OPT extension for another 24 months but the work must be in relation to your field of study.

You could begin school and your Designated School Official (DSO) file for an Employment Authorisation Document (EAD). This is done by completing Form I-765. When you have succeeded during your OPT, your employer can agree to sponsor you for an H-1B visa from which you can then apply for a Green Card.

Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)

This implies that the Educational institution you are attending gives room for you to work as part of the curriculum. It means this training is supposed to be completed before you can graduate. The training or practicals must be related to your field of study and must be approved by your Designated School Official (DSO).

There is no limit to how long the CPT should last, but you are permitted to start your training after 9months after resumption into your degree program. However if the training is more than 12 months, you will not be permitted to apply for Post-graduate Optional Practical Training (OPT).

US Visa Guide: The Different Types Of US Visas You Should Know About

Traveling Outside of the USA

The F1 visa holders tend to always need to travel abroad. Most of these travels are made during University breaks or during cases of emergency. They are allowed to travel to their home country or to other countries.

Some instructions are to be followed by F1 visa students who want to travel abroad before they can plan and book their travel. This is to make sure that they will be able to be accepted back into the United States upon their return.

F1 Visa dependents: Can you Bring relatives to the US with an F1 visa?

In a situation where you have persons that depend on you like your spouse, unmarried children below 21 years old, they can be permitted to travel to the US and live with you. This can be done using an F2 visa

There is also no maximum number of F2 visas which the embassy is supposed to issue out, hence once the dependents have met the requirements and completed the application procedures they can get the F2 visa. You have to meet the following criteria to be eligible for the F2 visa:

  • Be an unmarried child below the age of 21years of a valid F1 visa holder
  • Be the spouse of a valid F1 visa holder
  • Proof of financial means to support all through your stay while in the United States.

F1 Visa Interview Questions

Check out this video to get some tips for USA student F1 visa interview.

US Visa Guide: The Different Types Of US Visas You Should Know About

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